Scott Rogers of Bowling Green (Ohio) State University admits his theory sounds as if it came from a campy 1950s horror movie, but he says he believes it's a very real possibility.
"We've found viral RNA in the ice in Siberia, and it's along the major flight paths of migrating waterfowl" whose pathways take them to North America, Asia and Australia, and interconnect with other migratory paths to Europe and Africa, explained Rogers.
Viruses, he says, can be preserved in ice for long periods of time, and then released decades later when humans might no longer be immune to them. For instance, he said survivors of the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 had immunity to the responsible strain -- called H1N1 -- but that immunity has died with them, meaning a recurrence could take hold as an epidemic.
The research Rogers and his Russian and Israeli colleagues conducted appears in the December issue of the Journal of Virology.
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